by Collin McConnell · June 20, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #120 Collin McConnell comments on Wet Glitter at IRT Theater The promise of puppetry, music, and the supernatural will frequently get me into the theater. But not all promises are kept, and while Wet Glitter. does have all of the elements, they are not all necessarily as exciting and intriguing as they appear to be.
1996 - a daughter, Adeline, visits her out-of-work father, Sam, who's hiding some special uranium and drinking heavily. His good friend from years ago, Wyatt, has offered him work, aiding in some mysterious research. Elsewhere, a musician, Ruby, and her current lover, Durst, have run away, abandoning some former life. They all wind up at the site of an abandoned uranium mine in Paradox Valley, CO, wrapped up in some political intrigue over the old mine and the special properties of the uranium there...
For starters, the story isn't the clearest. The basics are there - a coming together of father and daughter, an artist and a man searching for identity, a scientist (rather, a curious doctor) searching for answers. But when it gets down to the details, everything starts to get a bit unclear, and a bit too big for itself - politics, the progress of the culture of music (cue Burning Man), and a mild amount of socio-political-minded-ness (homosexual characters that unfortunately do not add to the story).
For the play itself, on it's own, it boils down to this: there are a lot of questions here.
And questions are great, I personally love being left a bit in the unknown from a play. But the lesson here is that not all questions are great - for example, in a play not too terribly interested in literary expressionism, why is the main character named Sam Adams? Or why is the one flashback sequence unclear as a flashback, and why doesn't it help drive the story?
As far as the production goes, there are a few great hits that are unfortunately overshadowed by the larger misses.
Michael Salinas is fantastic as Wyatt Easly, the curious doctor with a supernaturally-powered dog. Salinas finds quirks and nuances, constantly playing with the text in exciting ways where the rest of the cast seem far too hesitant - save for Keilly McQuail, who also brings an excellent touch of depth to Adeline.
And the music is excellent. The style and tone are always fitting, and well executed – the influence of (homage to) American folk music of the 70's is incredibly palpable. An impressive feat is also how seamlessly the instrumental music of Brian Barone matches the songs by Julia Weldon (in collaboration with Ted Limpert and Hailey Wojcik).
But then there are those other promises. For a play promising puppetry, I was disappointed to see very little of it. And for a play promising the supernatural, there was an unfortunate lack of that as well. Not to suggest those elements are necessary to a good play (even one that promises them), but their absence led me to question what this piece was really about, what it was really doing, what it was really trying to be...
Wet Glitter. promises, and it does deliver to an extent. But not in any way that really lives up to its premise.